Gordon Hillman obituary

Archaeobotanist who was a distinguished researcher into ancient food plants and the history of agriculture

Well before the beginnings of farming, people had developed an understanding of how to use the plant world that was detailed and sophisticated. That observation is far less surprising now than it was before the life’s work of Gordon Hillman, a distinguished researcher into ancient food plants, who has died aged 74.

The early 1970s brought Gordon as a young postgraduate to the Turkish village of Aşvan, to join David French’s team of archaeologists who were charting patterns of village life that were soon to disappear. Not just the local customs and resources, but even the village of Aşvan itself was about to be engulfed by the Keban hydroelectric dam. Gordon brought to that project his novel approach to “archaeobotany”, the science of studying past crops and their management through recovered plant remains.

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